Best Two Player Board (and Card) Games for Adults – 2020 Review

Tabletop for Two People

As much as I love a good game night surrounded by friends, most of the time I have a much smaller pool of people to play with. Although we have built up quite a collection of games that can be played by many players, we have also gathered quite a few two-player board games (ones built specifically for 2). Ones that it doesn’t take too much convincing to get at least one more person to play, particularly because most aren’t long and drawn out.

Often when you look at various game boxes you will notice that most state they are for 2-4 or 2-5 players. While some will have a rather pleasant gaming experience with only two, others are seriously lacking something. For example, Ticket to Ride U.S. edition is a nice enough game with two players, but with the bare minimum there is very little “traffic” on the train routes and one’s strategy doesn’t require a whole lot of re-routing.

To be fair, Ticket to Ride has created several other versions that scale down to two players quite nicely, but I’ve not played them all so I can’t speak to the many different versions.

On the other hand, Firefly: The Game comes with several ways to play and includes both 2-player and solo versions of the game. This one usually takes some convincing to get someone else to play though since the game can last from 2-4 hours on average. Definitely, not a quick game for a relaxing evening.

What Makes a Good 2 Player Game?

For me, a good 2-player game is one where the strategy doesn’t suffer from having the minimum number of players or is specifically designed to be played by a duo.

For the sake of this article, I will be separating these into two categories to reflect this. It should be pointed out that due to the nature of these types of games, I find that they are inherently more competitive and even cutthroat at times.

Unlike games meant for more players, 2-person games almost require that both players remain engaged throughout. This is why shorter ones with quick turns/rounds create a better gaming experience.

For example, I played a game of Race for the Galaxy once where the game ended after only a few rounds thanks to an unbalanced game mechanic and I had barely gotten to play. Not super fun.

Of course, there are classics like Chess and Go, which I enjoy from time to time, but there are times where I want a game with something just a bit different.

I am admittedly a sucker for some good artwork and quite enjoy games that have a visual appeal as well as a good strategy. I also really like cooperative gameplay, which is perfect for those who still want to be friends at the end or just like the idea of working together to solve puzzles. 🙂

This list is by no means comprehensive as there are so many good ones out there that people enjoy.

A friend of mine swears by Lord of Waterdeep as a fun 2-player game, although I find it rather boring when the board isn’t full of meeples jockeying for position.

Games Specifically Made for Two-Players

Blokus Duo

Blokus Duo

Just like the original, in Blokus Duo players work with Tetris-shaped pieces building only on the corners. However, the pieces and the board are smaller and, as far as I can tell, it is impossible to get down to zero. Also, unlike the larger game, players start more centered, which does change the strategy of the game itself. This one is also a great one for travel as it is small and can fit in a suitcase.

Blood of an Englishman

The Blood of An Englishman

I stumbled on this one while searching specifically for good 2-player games. A mix between solitaire and hearts, one player plays as Jack and the other as the Giant. Each has a different objective and different rules that govern the way the cards are moved. It’s infuriatingly fun. Games are short, averaging about 15-20 minutes and it is interesting to trade off on who plays Jack and the Giant as the strategy is different for each.

7 Wonders Duel

7 Wonders - Duel

All the beautiful artwork of the original 7 Wonders, with some changes to the deck-building aspect and a good deal more cutthroat strategy. A military-strategy game that requires a serious defense, Duel feels like it ups the ante since everything is focused on only two players. This one may take a few plays in order to really understand all the different ways you can win and to form a solid approach.

Codenames Duet

Czech Games Codenames: Duet - The Two Player Word...

An intricate game of clues and assassins and secret agents. For those who are ugly competitive, this game is technically one in which the players work together and makes for a fun night that won’t end in a fight. It’s also great practice for the regular Codenames as you and your partner can develop some great ways to give clues. Think of it as a skirmish game before the big game.

Bohnanza: The Duel

Rio Grande Games Bohnanza Duel Card Game

When I originally saw this one, I ignored it as I thought it would be just like the original, which I absolutely adore and saw no reason to get another one just like it. How very wrong I was. Different enough to require a full read-through of the rules, all my strategies had to change and in a good way. It’s still “the bean game”, but with some added elements that make it unique from its predecessor.

The Fox in the Forest

Renegade Game Studios - The Fox in the Forest Card...

Perfect for those who want something reminiscent of a traditional card game, but with all the beautiful artwork and intricacies of the more modern deck-building games. Definitely the “prettiest” out of this bunch and one that feels nicely paced for a comfortable evening.

Multi-Player Games that Scale Down for 2-People

Above and Below

Above and Below Game

I am a huge fan of the Red Raven games. I love the artwork, the gameplay, and the world they have created. This one loses nothing from being 2-player since the goal is to build up your town above and explore below and all the player interaction comes in the way of storytelling. The storybook that comes along with the game is wonderfully entertaining. I was once attacked by a squad of angry bunny rabbits when I attempted to rescue a fairy stuck in a cage.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes - The Thames Murders & Other Cases

The first time I played this game, it was a miserable failure. I thought the point was simply to solve the mystery. No, the real goal is to solve a mystery before Sherlock Holmes does. Complete with a storybook and large map, players work together to solve the mystery with limited clues. Will you go the victim’s workplace or their home? Which will help you solve the mystery faster? Simple in execution and extremely difficult by design, this is one that will strain your mental faculties, but is so satisfying when you finally “get it”. Perfect for those who like escape rooms.

Santorini

Santorini - Strategy-Based Board Game

Although this game states that it can play 2-3 players, I’m not entirely convinced that this should ever play 3 players although I’ve tried several times. Almost like a 3D version of chess, players need to plan five moves ahead in order to create their buildings while also blocking the other players. It’s also a quick game, which makes it a good one if both players don’t want to commit to a long game. Also, great to play with kids. Warning: To add complexity, players can draw a card styled after ancient Greek gods as a special “power”, which can imbalance the game if not careful.

Pandemic

Pandemic

I’m a huge fan of cooperative board games. Suspenseful in a way that is rare with board games, you may find yourself playing a few games in a row. If the game is too easy, you can also up the difficulty level.

Azul

Plan B Games Azul Board Game Board Games,...

I love this game. I love it with 5 players and I love it with 2. Quiet, chill, perfect with a glass of wine, and one that you will play over and over again. It’s all about the combos. To make it even more challenging, you can flip the board over and try and create your own patterns.

Paper Tales

Paper Tales Board Games

Players build their own kingdom by recruiting people and creatures, creating income, and choosing cards. With several different ways to win, there are a lot of different ways to strategize, which creates endless replayability.

So Many Games, So Little Time – Get Playing!

Whatever game you play, remember that at the end of the night you still want to remain, friends, so choose wisely. For every one listed here, there are a dozen more. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by the many choices. Hone in on the type of game you and your regular gaming friend like to play and search for games that fill that niche. Now that I have written this, I think I may need to convince someone to play Above and Below with me. It’s been a while.

Last update on 2020-10-21 at 23:28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API